Sunday, January 24, 2016


"To entertain is sacred," my friend said to me over a couple of pints at a local bar. I chuckled and leaned back in my chair, thinking the premise a bit overstated, though I agreed with the sentiment. We had been discussing the creation process and motivation to put ink to page.

Part of the reason I write is to give a little something back for all of the hours I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a movie, game, or book. My primary aim is to entertain. I think there is a natural defensiveness that genre writers feel, a need to defend the idea that pure entertainment without the benefit of a strong social message is somehow lacking in literary value.

Granted, I may weave into the story a backdrop of gender/race/etc equality, but that's often times my own distaste with our present world, and not my explicit attempt to sway others into my branch of thought.

In a world (hard not to hear Don LaFontaine's voice) that's eager to serve up countless examples of hatred and disaster, I take refuge in entertainment. It helps me recharge and fortify against reality. And if I can help create that for a few other souls, awesome.

It reminds me of Emily Dickinson's beautiful poem, "Not in Vain"

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

I've had more time to marinate on my friend's idea, and I think he was right after all.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Little More Perspective Please

Effort. In its pure, and glorious form, we often feel it's sufficient criteria to pass judgment upon another soul.

As a child, I was often praised for my efforts, and soon that became one of the primary identifiers of self-worth. There are certainly worse things a person could pick up, dust off, and use as their guide, but it has it's limits if a person tries to apply that outside of their little box.

It doesn't take too long to realize that effort alone is not sufficient. Still, it can be an effective shield against failure, to take comfort in the fact that you tried hard; you gave it the old college try. People will only expect you to try your hardest, right? Even as an adult, people are willing to cut you some slack if they perceive you are trying.

I don't want to state that last line too lightly. It doesn't matter how hard you are trying, if others around you do not recognize that effort. That's my problem. Even though I will fully admit the playing field is not even, I have assumed that effort was. It may sound a little meta, but even effort is subject to different levels of, well effort. It might be easy for one person to undertake, to try, something than another person. Yeah, I know this sounds sophomoric, but bear with me.

That doesn't even get to the idea of what is worthy of a person's effort and how subjective that is. It reminds me of when my brother and I, as kids would square off against our dad on the racquetball court. I was maybe, I don't know, twelve, and my brother was ten. I would dive for the ball and was singularly focused on defeating our dad. I could not for the life of me understand why my brother did not appear to be trying as hard as I thought I was trying. It drove me nuts, and I acted like a jackass.

Thankfully, I outgrew that. Well, okay, I outgrew most of that. But even now in my mid-thirties, my knee-jerk reaction is to devalue a person, solely because I perceive their effort to not be as intense as I think it should be. *sigh*. It's a horrible habit. The remedy is all about perspective, needing to think outside of my own limited point-of-view.

That leads me to next writing challenge. I got my notes back from my editor, and the short version = rewrite the novel. One of the fixes will be fleshing out some of the other points-of-views. POV can be an exceptionally powerful thing. It grants us a solid chance at empathy. We can fall in love with a villain, or at least understand why they did something considered heinous. It can break down the walls of simple categories/labels, and instead, force us to consider people as individuals worthy of understanding. And once we make a serious attempt at understanding a person, it's hard not to like them and learn a little about ourselves in the process.

And that's where my writing life and non-writing life intersect. They could both use a little more perspective.